By Shane McGinley
Proposal has been given the green light by a European Parliament committee
The European Union is pushing ahead with plans to allow UAE citizens visa-free access to the 26 countries that make up the Schengen Area, with final approval likely to be awarded next year.
The Civil Liberties Committee at the European Parliament on Monday voted to add the UAE to a list of countries whose nationals will not need a visa if they wish to travel to most EU countries for a short stay of up to 90 days.
“MEPs also added the United Arab Emirates to the positive list... A citizen of any of these countries would no longer require a visa for short stays (up to 90 days) in the Schengen area if s/he has a passport, whether for business, tourist or family-visit purposes,” a statement on the official European Parliament said.
“The text provides in return for the visa exemption to be reciprocated under visa-waiver agreements, enabling all EU citizens who wish to travel to these countries to do so without visas,” the statement added.
The Schengen Area is made up of 419m people and covers an area of 4,312,099 square kilometres. Its member states include Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania will join this year, while EU member states the UK and Ireland have opted out of joining.
UAE Ambassador to the European Union, Sulaiman Al Mazrouei, welcomed the vote in favour of the UAE. "If approved, the Schengen visa waiver would ease travel for the UAE citizens to the Schengen states. The UAE would be the first Arab country whose citizens are exempt from Schengen visa," he said.
The committee now has a mandate to start negotiations with the EU’s Council of Ministers and final approval decision will be made next year.
This summer UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan called on European officials to approve the proposal, claiming Emiratis are “too often stopped at European borders and turned away because of unclear, complex, and restrictive visa regulations.”
The proposal was tabled last year and was initially opposed by Austria, Belgium, Germany and The Netherlands. However, Germany and The Netherlands subsequently reversed their stance.
While on a visit to Vienna this summer, Sheikh Abdullah appealed for the proposal to be passed: “Too often, Emirati citizens are stopped at European borders and turned away because of unclear, complex, and restrictive visa-regulations.
"The UAE is proud to call itself a friend of Austria and a friend of Europe. We are happy to continue to contribute to this friendship and to continue investing and spending in Europe. In return, the UAE expects to be treated as a friend, including upon arrival at Europe's borders.”
I am wondering whether UAE will be lifting the entry visas for all Schengen countries to visit UAE as well? So far, only few Schengen countries are allowed to visit UAE without a visa...
â€œThe text provides in return for the visa exemption to be reciprocated under visa-waiver agreements, enabling all EU citizens who wish to travel to these countries to do so without visas,â€ the statement added.